A hopeful introduction
For over a year-and-a-half, Alon Gilad, a veteran customer, has joined us on Mondays to help us harvest and pack. After years of working in hi-tech, he dared do what most people only dream of, to follow his heart. He began to study dog training, enrolling in a program run in cooperation with the tnu l’chayot lichyot (Let the Animals Live) organization to train abandoned dogs and improve their chances of finding new homes. These charming dogs are located in K’far Ruth, near Modi’in.
Alon’s attitude towards dogs is so similar to his character: an affirmed optimist who always believes things can be improved and fixed, who works hard, yet calmly, and with confidence. Upon graduation, Alon began training dogs himself. You can find details on his website.
We extend him much gratitude, and our wishes for good luck.________________________________
Not a word about the weather this week!
OK, maybe one word. One vegetable that’s truly been enjoying the heat is our green soybean, the edamame. Unlike human beings, the edamame does not complain about the heat, it adjusts well to various types of soil, consumes relatively small amounts of water, and most important- does most of its own fertilization to improve the ground’s fertility for future crops. It comes as no surprise, then, that in Chinese culture the edamame has been considered one of the five most sacred types of grain for some 5,000 years, essential to Chinese culture (together with rice, wheat, barley and millet). It was so declared by the legendary Caesar Shennong, the divine farmer, who is considered the father of Chinese agriculture.
The edamame’s origins are in North China, from a wild plant named Glycine Ussuriensis. The process of soy domestication, probably one of the first crops to be cultivated by man, began many years ago around the 11th century BC. Soy is both food and a medicinal plant. By the first century, soy arrived to south and central China and to Korea. By the 7th century, it could be found in Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Nepal and North India. It took till the 18th century to arrive in the west.
It is amazing to ponder what this ancient crop had to go through from the time it was grown in Chinese fields over 5000 years ago, mainly to be used as green manure to improve the soil and improve the earth for future crops. Today soy is also used as glue, dye, synthetic fiber, soap, ink, candles, lacquer, a rubber substitute, and of course, bio-diesel. From a sacred and dignified seed to a genetically engineered, labeled, patented prisoner.
Like corn, almost everything we eat contains soy, from baby food formula to the popular soy oil, through meat and fish (soy is one of the components in animal and fish food), soy flour in various pastries, soy protein in milk substitutes, soy fibers and soy lecithin in almost every processed food that requires pasting, inflating and “modeling.” It is almost strange to say that food “contains” soy, as it in fact contains various separated components, taken apart and processed to their final drop of protein. Can it actually be called soy? I don’t know. Too philosophical a question for me on these hot days (not a word about the weather). To me it sounds more like amputated, soul-less body parts…
But everything starts in the green fields. The soy belongs to the legume or Faboidae family, whose distinguished members include beans, peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas and others. It takes around four months for the plant to fully ripen, harden, dry up and produce brown seeds that look like this:
At this stage they are picked to begin their final journey, during which they will be disassembled, extracted, bloated, fermented, ground, distilled and submitted to other tortures. Some of our plants in Chubeza will also be left to mature to this dry state, but for an opposite aim: to preserve the seeds and produce seeds for next year, which will be planted to yield more green elevated plants that will grow to take their part in improving the soil. Instead of sophisticated processing, we are preserving the simplicity. Instead of disassembling, we are promoting the wholeness of the plants.
But most of our little soy poles are picked when they are green and still deserving of the title edamame (eda- twig, mame- bean). Some of you may remember when we used to send the edamame on its twigs, a trick Suwet taught us, based on how they are sold in the Far East. Like this:
Soybeans in their natural and original form have many advantages: they are rich in protein, containing 60% of the recommended daily consumption (and this protein is similar to the protein in meat). Such protein is responsible for stabilizing blood sugar levels, and assists in reducing the risk of diabetes. In addition, edamame contains vitamins C, A and K, and such minerals as iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. It is rich in dietary fibers (40% of recommended daily consumption) that can latch onto toxins and cleanse them from the body. Soy contains lecithin, which assists in balancing cholesterol levels and can prevent atherosclerosis. Lecithin is also an important component for weight loss, as it assists in breaking up fats. In addition, edamame contains choline and inositol, elements which improve memory function and the smooth transmission of receptors within the nervous system.
Soy protein also includes sapogenins, renowned as an effective, powerful influence for preventing cancer and cardiac diseases. Edamame is rich in isoflavones, the plant form of estrogen, and can improve menopause-related symptoms: hot flashes, heart disease and the loss of bone density, specifically in the spine and thighs. In addition, edamame includes a peptide called lunasin which reduces the amount of cholesterol in the body: on one hand, it delays production of cholesterol; on the other, it assists in reducing the level of bad cholesterol (LDL).
Upon its arrival to western world, soy received a place of honor in the realm of natural food, and like many trends, became most admired and considered a “health bomb.” Can billions of Chinese be wrong?
Over the past several years, some controversy has developed between the soy advocates, supported by the good health of Chinese and Japanese (and lots of cash… over 50% of the soy in the world is produced by American companies; over 70% of the products in your local supermarket somehow contain soy) and the scientists who wonder whether so much hormone, even if it is vegetal, is indeed healthy. The latter blame soy for increasing various types of cancer, changes in the function of the thyroid gland, damaging fertility and brain activity in men, causing congenital defects and even the early sexual development of western girls. Some of the blame is placed on the genetic engineering of most of the soy grown worldwide (most of which is intended to bolster soy against various herbicides), and the excess spraying as a result. Although others claim that the fermentation process most soybeans undergo in the Far East to produce such products as tempe, tofu, miso, etc., destroys many of its naturally dangerous components, making it safer for use. The jury is still out on this debate, and the evidence is not conclusive enough to make the call.
And as we are left to ponder the problems of totality, extremism, exaggeration and wholeness, why not nosh on some delicious green soybeans, the Oriental snack, as we vote for moderation (of weather as well…)
Wishing us all a cool, peaceful week, Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team _________________________________
This week’s basket includes: (We weren’t able to buy cucumbers this week)
Monday: red peppers, yard long bean or cowpea or edamame, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, pumpkin, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, lettuce, potatoes, corn
In the large box, in addition: okra, melons, eggplants
Wednesday: Pumpkin, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, corn/red peppers/green peppers, cilantro or parsley, edamame, potatoes, mint, melon or butternut squash – small boxes only, Yard long bean or cowpea – small boxes only
In the large box, in addition: okra, green onions, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, basil
Edamame Recipes and more….
The easiest way to cook edamame is to blanch them for several minutes in boiling water (or, alternately, to steam them), sprinkle a bit of salt, and enjoy noshing away. But here are several more sophisticated recipes for those who desire to make a real effort:
And let us not forget the rest of our box for this week – here’s a ratatouille recipe Mitch sent me this week (thanks!) – a way to combine many of your box’s ingredients in one dish:
* 1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided * 1 pound small Italian eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes * Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper * 1 pound zucchini, cut crosswise into 1-inch sections * 3 anchovy fillets, finely minced * 2 onions, finely chopped * 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped * 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley * Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh basil, coarsely chopped * Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs * 2 pints cherry tomatoes * 1 dried chili * Splash of balsamic vinegar
Line a large platter with paper towels. Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the eggplant, season generously with salt and pepper, and let that cook down for 10 to 12 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and wilted. Remove the eggplant from the pan and onto a platter to drain. Next stop, zucchini: cook it the same way in 1/4 cup oil, then add it to the platter with the eggplant.
Add another 1/4 cup olive oil to the pan, then the anchovies, onions, garlic and herbs. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions get nice and caramelized. Add the tomatoes and cook that down for 10 to 12 minutes, until pulpy. Return the eggplant and zucchini to the pan, crack open the chili, and add that too. Season with salt and pepper and let the ratatouille cook slowly for about 20 minutes, until the mixture is soft, mushy and juicy; you want all the flavors to come together. Stir in the vinegar and let cool to room temperature.